Human resources developing the future of wind power

The challenge of FOM Academy born in Fukushima

If you drive for 30 minutes from Fukushima Station, you will see the blades of a huge windmill, which serves as a signboard, amidst the idyllic scenery. FOM Academy is a training facility specializing in wind power generation. It was established using a closed elementary school and will open in June 2022.

Currently, FOM Academy is a popular facility that is constantly booked. What kind of training is being conducted?

Relatec's Konagae and Mito visited and spoke with Tatsunori Kanno and Toshimitsu Yoshida of the Fukushima Wind O&M (Operation & Maintenance) Association, which operates the FOM Academy.

The current situation is that there is an overwhelming shortage of human resources responsible for Japan's wind industry.

Maintenance of wind turbines involves work at heights and in narrow spaces, which is always fraught with danger. In order to carry out work safely, it is necessary to have the correct knowledge and appropriate training to be prepared to protect yourself and the people you work with in the event of an emergency.

GLOBAL WIND ORGANISATION (GWO) is a non-profit, international organization created to help prevent accidents in the wind power industry and is made up of many affiliated businesses. GWO has established "GWO-BST", which is a standard for basic safety training, and certifies facilities that provide training that meets that standard as GWO-certified facilities. FOM Academy is one of only four GWO certified facilities in Japan. (As of April 2023)

Mr. Kanno explains the reason for establishing a GWO certified facility in Fukushima as follows.

“Fukushima has set a goal of converting all of the prefecture's electricity demand to renewable energy by 2040, and is putting particular effort into installing wind turbines.Currently, there are approximately 100 wind turbines in Fukushima (*April 2023) Although the number is one-third to one-half that of Hokkaido, Aomori, and Akita, it is expected to increase in number to rival those of these prefectures within the next five years.Only wind turbines are rapidly increasing in size. If the number increases, there will definitely be a shortage of human resources who can manage it as it is.The industry that was born in Fukushima will now be in charge of people from outside the prefecture.I thought that would be a shame.''

Mr. Tatsunori Kanno, one of the central figures in the establishment of FOM Academy

Once built, a windmill will continue to operate for 20 years. If you receive technical training, you will be able to be in charge of tasks related to wind turbine maintenance stably for a long period of time. Living in Fukushima is a big advantage, as if you live in the prefecture you can immediately come to the rescue if there is a problem or something.

However, it seems that there are still more users from outside the prefecture than from within the prefecture. One of its strengths is that it is easily accessible from Tokyo and is Japan's first facility open to the public.

“Up until now, safety training facilities for wind power generation have been established and used by wind power generation operators and maintenance companies for the purpose of in-house education. FOM Academy has been open to the public from the beginning.We provide training opportunities to a variety of people, including those newly entering the industry and students.In the future. , a large amount of human resources will be needed not only in Fukushima Prefecture but throughout Japan to handle wind power generation, so we want to make FOM Academy a place where anyone can learn as a place to develop wind turbine experts. Masu"

Photo from GWO CEO Jakob's visit to FOM Academy. CEO Jakob toured the facility and evaluated it as being comparable to the best in the world in terms of training equipment and educational environment.

Hard training camp held during the coronavirus pandemic

In order to run a training facility, it is necessary to train trainers. To this end, we planned to invite instructors from a training facility in Taiwan that is affiliated with FOM Academy to conduct training. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the instructor was unable to come to Japan, so the training camp suddenly became an online training camp.

``The training was quite intense, reducing the schedule of about one month to two weeks.The instructor lectured on the important points of each training session in English via a computer screen.The training time was 8 hours. It lasted for nine hours.It was really hard, but it was fun.Afterwards, as soon as the tough period due to the coronavirus ended, I had an instructor come to Japan and teach me some practical skills.''

Mr. Yoshida, who responded to the interview with Mr. Kanno, is also a key member of the FOM Academy. Mr. Yoshida originally worked for a global wind turbine manufacturer, where he maintained numerous wind turbines and was also in charge of in-house training. Even for Mr. Yoshida, who has a lot of experience, he says that he learned a lot from the GWO training.

"GWO collects disaster and accident cases from all over the world. We analyze them and constantly update safety measures. This is information that cannot be obtained in Japan or within a single company."

Mr. Toshimitsu Yoshida has extensive experience in wind turbine maintenance.

During his courses, Mr. Yoshida will share with the participants examples of close calls from his own extensive experience. Anecdotes of actual cases and experiences will make the participants look even more serious.

``Training may be the same no matter where you take it. What we try to do at our facility is to make the people who come think it's fun. Here, there is laughter even during class. We also had a lot of fun when we learned from a Taiwanese instructor. It was tough, but it was fun. I hope you feel the same way."

Learn GWO training in the school building

We were shown the inside of the actual facility. The school building is beautiful and impressive, with the warmth of wood. The school was built in 1996 and closed in 2017 due to a decrease in the number of students, so the school building is still new and has been used without major renovations.

When I looked into the classroom from the hallway, I saw that a first aid course was being held. This course provides basic knowledge and skills for initial first aid, such as determining injuries and illnesses, and lifesaving procedures including AED. There are many foreign participants, and the courses are conducted in a hybrid of Japanese and English.

First aid training session

There was also a classroom displaying various tools related to the wind industry. Items that are difficult to obtain in Japan are also displayed by ordering them from overseas.

In the room where actual windmill equipment is displayed. Mr. Kanno and Relatec members

Move to the gymnasium. Training for working at heights is provided here.

High altitude training facility installed in the gymnasium

Relatec members also experienced it.

Wear safety equipment.


Mr. Yoshida giving a lecture

Attach a lifeline and climb up the ladder.

You will receive a lecture at a height of 10 meters above the ground.

Training takes place at a height of 10m, but actual work takes place at a height of 80m or more. Strong winds also blow at higher elevations. During the training, you will learn what to do if someone is injured in such a situation.

An instructor at the same facility explains the specifications of equipment that allows even women to pull up injured adults. He used to work at a wedding hall.

I want to support the foundation of Japanese technology and raise its standard.

Large wind turbines are not currently manufactured in Japan. Therefore, in the future, we will purchase and operate wind turbines from overseas. In such cases, the person maintaining the wind turbine must comply with the rules of the overseas wind turbine manufacturer, so it is essential that they have received GWO training.

However, conducting such training in-house requires a lot of cost and effort.

"If the culture of outsourcing training takes root in Japan, the development of this industry will accelerate. I would be happy if this academy could become a place like that." (Mr. Kanno)

Mock training using actual equipment will also be held.

Actual windmills are placed in the schoolyard, mixed with children's play equipment. Two weeks ago, we opened FOM Academy to the public and held an event with a kitchen truck in the schoolyard. Mr. Kanno recalls that it was impressive to see the children looking at the windmill with so much interest.

``When children play in the schoolyard and see a windmill next to it, they remember what it was when they grow up, and I think that experience will lead to some children becoming interested in the wind industry. I think it's great.Currently, the first floor is also used for training, but in the future we would like to set up a coffee shop and a permanent exhibition room here.''

Mr. Yoshida continues that he also holds seminars for technical college students and university students.

“Wind power is a new industry, so I hope more and more young people and students will become interested in it and get involved.It would also be great if new jobs and many jobs were created here in Fukushima. Our facility is also actively recruiting people who have previously worked in industries completely unrelated to wind power.We have people from a variety of backgrounds working here, regardless of gender, so if you have even the slightest interest, please feel free to apply. I would be happy if you could come and tour our facility.”

(Composition/Izumi Kantake; Editing/Hisae Sasaki)

Part 2: Talking about the future of the wind industry ~Why FOM Academy is betting on human resources development~From here